Avurudu games

By Shani Asokan | Published: 2:00 AM Apr 9 2022
Teen inc Avurudu games

By Shani Asokan

In Sri Lanka, the month of April is one that many of us look forward to. Despite being one of the hottest months of the year, April is also a month of celebration and festivity. 

Many, if not all of us Sri Lankans celebrate Sinhala and Hindu New Year, or avurudu, in some capacity. Be it eating the obligatory piece of kiribath, participating in community events or just enjoying the long holiday, Avurudu is a special time for everyone.

This festival is also a time for community as many gather at large events or neighbourhood uthsavayas to partake in the many exciting games and competitions that make up a significant part of avurudu celebrations. The theme of many of these activities is to let go of the old and herald the new. That is, to leave all ill-will in the old year and step into the new one with positivity and open-heartedness. 

Over the years, this aspect of avurudu, though still prominent, have become more commercialised and less tied to what they truly represent. Though you’re still able to find these games around, especially at local, community-organised events around avurudu, the games as a whole have lost some of their cultural value. This year, though avurudu may be a little different for us all, it is perhaps more important that we remember that aspect of community and coming together represented by the different games and activities unique to this holiday. Now is a time for us all to be united, and celebrating the New Year together as one, is one way to do just that. 

Kotta pora

In essence, this is the Lankan version of a pillow fight. That is, a slightly elevated version of a pillow fight – quite literally. This game takes place high up on a horizontal beam, where participants sit with one arm bound behind their backs, and the other holding a pillow case or cloth bag stuffed with soft material (picture a soft boxing glove).

The aim of this game is, as you might have gathered by now, or is many cases observed in real time, to knock your opponent off the beam by battering them with the pillow. The beam is generally suspended over a pool of water, so the loser generally gets a good dunking as well. The extreme version doesn’t include the pool, and participants risk taking a hard crash to the earth or grass below in the event of a loss.

Kana mutti bindeema 

This event is very similar to the US/Mexican tradition of the piñata (a papier-mache object usually in the shape of an animal that is hit with a stick until it cracks open). The 

Kana mutti activity consists of a row of pots suspended from a horizontal rope or pole, roughly a foot or two above participants’ height. Participants are blindfolded, given a stick, and the license to smash anything and everything in their way. It’s generally expected to be a pot or two, but it could also lead to a cracked skull if you don’t move out of the way quick enough!

There’s always one pot that contains the ‘loot’: generally some toffees or candies. The other pots generally contain water, but since we Lankans love to take things to the next level, more often than not, this water is dyed with food or cloth colouring.

So either you hit the right pot and are celebrated as a winner, or hit the wrong pot and walk around reminding everyone of your loss courtesy the stains on your clothes.

Bunis Kaema

We Sri Lankans love our food. Even better, we generally have a crowd favourite food for every meal or snack time. One such popular snack or breakfast food is the tea bun, a soft, slightly sweet bread. Now take this bun and add a sprinkle of good old healthy competition and you have the buniskaema game. In a competition where table manners are forgotten and chewing is optional, skills certainly triumph appetite.  

Buns are suspended at kneeling height from a horizontal string. Participants kneel in front of the dangling buns, with their hands tied behind their backs. At the starting signal they begin to chow down the bun and it’s first to the finish. While this game may seem easy enough, anyone who’s tried getting a bite out of the swinging bun knows just how daunting of a task it can be.

Lissana gaha nageema

This game may seem mundane at first, but those who have tried it will tell you just how difficult, and at times painful, it can be. The game involves a long pole, traditionally made from the trunk of an areca nut tree, driven into the ground to form a climbing post. The post is generally coated in a thick, slippery grease and a prize (generally a flag) is placed at the top of the pole. 

The gameplay is simple, the first to climb to the top and grab the prize is the winner. Of course this is no easy feat in itself, but add half a dozen others trying to climb the pole alongside you, and you’ve got all the makings for a slippery mess. Still, this game can be a lot of fun – just remember not to wear your brand new avurudu clothes to the event. 

Building communities

Avurudu has long been a time where people from local communities gather to celebrate together. On this holiday, divisive factors like race, religion and class are set aside, and togetherness becomes a central focus. Today, more than ever before, we need this togetherness to get through the hard times that have befallen our island nation. So this avurudu, let us embrace the true spirit of the holiday that is community.  


By Shani Asokan | Published: 2:00 AM Apr 9 2022

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